Lightspeed Champion - Falling Off The Lavender Bridge

Angus Reid 27/01/2008

Rating: 4/5

Well, this is unexpected. Dev Hynes, formerly of Test Icicles, a band that stopped making music, because they didn't like the music they were making, has set out solo under the guise of Lightspeed Champion, and it turns out that the kind of music he'd rather have been making all along is country tinged anti-folk (whatever that means). Ok, so it's not like Bob Dylan going electric in terms of impact on the music world, but it's quite a turnaround to make. The critical question of course, when faced with a musical about face such as this is - “Is it any good?” Well, actually, yes it is.

Opening with a short slide guitar led introduction, for one horrible moment I'm convinced that '…Lavender Bridge' is going to be a cod country nightmare of epic proportions, but that soon passes and we're into the first song proper, featuring the beautiful harmonies of Emmy the Great (a feature across most of this album). 'Galaxy of the Lost' is the first single, and it has a suitably immediate charm to it, mixing a bearable degree of twee cuteness with a swooning melodic sway that is altogether rather pleasing.

This is an album that shows the influence of its co-contributors as much as the main man himself, and producer Mike Mogis, a permanent member of Bright Eyes brings a similar feel of withering Americana to the proceedings, while allowing the distinctly English indie feel of the songs to shine through. Nowhere is this more evident than the 9 minute monolith nestling at the centre of the album. 'Midnight Surprise' is by turns a catchy, poppy guitar shuffle, an epic, piano led swoon of a love song, and a fuzzy cloud of sound. As the centrepiece of the album it's an ambitious, multi-parted, prog-folk beast of a song that constantly reinvents itself while retaining a sense of coherence throughout. In short, it's a work of genius.

With this kind of music, there is always a certain importance given to the lyrical content, and Hynes is clearly aware of this, delivering some flowing verses with a poetic feel typical of this genre (“A disquieting pre occupation, the keys to a nightmare which I taped / And made sure, I watched daily / This required a careful touch and a swinging chain / Put the salty water in my broken wounds.”). This lyrical deftness completes the checklist of elements needed for a successful indie-folk based album, and although there is nothing sparklingly new or original at work here, it's a deep, warming glow of an album, that manages to take the listener on something of a journey though the songwriter's mind without ever outstaying its welcome. A surprise then, but one that we can be glad of.

Released: 21/01/08